Students at UR have grown accustomed to many things in recent years. They can always expect to see at least a dozen people in Gleason Library at 3 a.m. writing an essay due the next day and on any warm day it is unusual to have less than two hundred people cramming themselves onto the Academic Quad to soak up the sun. Most of all though, they have become used to a high level of excellence from their campus a cappella groups.
One of those groups, the Midnight Ramblers, kicked off a month of a cappella showcases on Saturday, April 7, with an entertaining, emotional performance in Strong Auditorium which the YellowJackets, Vocal Point and After Hours will have a hard time topping in their upcoming performances.
Over the course of their three-hour performance, the Ramblers unleashed several short video segments which all fit with their “Rambler Games” theme, their parody of the recent box office smash “The Hunger Games.” While at times the sound editing caused the resonance to be almost cringe-inducing, the videos were very comedic and entertaining overall. Co-directors and editors junior Kevin Layden and senior Noah Berg were able to replicate the success of their “Epic Saga” theme of last semester, and generally did a fine job with the production.
The show opened with a medley that demonstrated the breadth of the Ramblers’ talented ensemble, with several different soloists performing a number of today’s top 40 pop hits. The performance was often disjointed choreographically, but the strength of the soloists made up for it.
The arrangements on their new songs were everything you would expect from Berg, whose unique arranging style created a noticeable depth in many of the songs while utilizing the incredible talents of the group’s members. Sophomore Gregory Corrado’s remarkable solo on Jessie J’s “Domino” was one of the strongest performances of the night, in which Corrado used his unique vocal timbre and glitzy showmanship to push an already strong number over the top. The remaining songs of their first set were what we would usually expect from the Ramblers: a couple of recent pop songs featuring talented leads, with an entertaining background that was pitchy at times but generally solid.
The guest group, which appeared roughly halfway through the show, was the cheerful, all-female group from the University of Connecticut named Rubyfruit. The vocally diverse group offered a refreshing break from the loud, high-energy performances of the Ramblers, and emphasized in-group harmonic backgrounds and strong performances from its five soloists.
Once they were done, the Ramblers came back in force and dominated the stage with a new song by Avicii and several crowd favorites from the fall show. The Avicii number stood out the most predominantly because of the use of a style of vocal dubstep that the group hadn’t used before. This innovative style was executed well by sophomore bassist Andrew Tomich and vocal percussionist/tenor Berg, creating effects that were reminiscent of Bassnector or Skrillex, making many of the seats in Strong Auditorium vibrate even after the song had ended.
The biggest highlight of the evening, however, belonged to the graduating seniors. The Rambler class of 2012 — seniors Matt Watman, Imran Jahvid, Jared Suresky and Berg – each performed a unique senior solo. Jahvid’s beautiful cover of Shai’s “If I Ever Fall In Love” captivated audiences with its soulful beauty and Suresky’s version of “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake made us all forget that the talented four-year member will never grace the Strong Auditorium stage again. The dedication of the song to Berg — the primary arranger for the group for the past three years — was the most heartwarming, and ended with an original song written by Berg.
After a tearful hug goodbye between the group, the Ramblers performed a final senior song, the mellow “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons, in which seniors Watman, Suresky and Berg led the group in a three-part harmony. If anything, this was the most vocally complete number in the entire show; the arrangement was seamless and the background perfectly complimented the melody without overpowering them or fading into irrelevance. The lyrics resonated well amongst the audience, who were watching a generation of Ramblers that had helped to reform the group into what they are today.
Walking out of the theater, it’s hard not to be in awe of a group like the Midnight Ramblers; they are performers, musicians and comedians all in one, while still seeming to have so much fun themselves. While the concert itself was not of the same quality as their fall show overall (though the difference is marginal), the show was highly entertaining, and it is without a doubt that, come this fall, the Ramblers will return to the stage with the same enthusiasm and bravado that they brought to the stage this year. Berg, Suresky, Watman and Jahvid will be missed for their unique and limitless contributions to the group, but the Midnight Ramblers will never cease to awe and entertain the University community.
Pascutoi is a member of the class of 2013.